Artwork Detail

American, b. 1945
Photographic screenprint on vinyl
140 1/4 x 92 1/4 x 2 5/8 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 1990
WU 1990.15
A prime example of artist as social activist, Barbara Kruger creates politically motivated work that demonstrates a feminist critique of how mass culture shapes and mediates social norms. Through the use of commercial graphics and advertising techniques, she renders visible traditional gender/power relations that often go unnoticed or unsaid. In this banner-sized work, the artist used silkscreen on vinyl, a common advertising medium, to place familiar slogans in white block letters onto an intense, eye-catching red border, collaged against a close-up, black-and-white photograph of a snake. Appropriating the slogan "Don't Tread on Me" and the image of a coiled snake from early American flags, which symbolized defiance and independence for the thirteen colonies, this work also evokes the biblical story of temptation that resulted in the fall of man. Threatening and defiant, yet ultimately ambiguous as to whose voice they represent, Kruger's bold images depart from easily legible, popular advertisements through their unusual, disjunctive combinations of texts and images, demanding that viewers become active interpreters and analysts.